OLD TOWN, Maine — Former county sheriff Richard Mack of Arizona, who promotes tea party politics and in 1997 successfully challenged the constitutionality of some provisions of the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, spoke Saturday at the Elks Club in Old Town.

Speaking in an afternoon presentation specifically targeted for Maine sheriffs, Mack said county law enforcement agents must live up to their oaths to uphold the U.S. Constitution. That includes, he said, “standing against the federal government” on issues of state jurisdiction.

Mack said that a national trend toward “political correctness” — including the Obama administration’s health care reform, a failed war on drugs, and ongoing efforts to undermine the constitutionally guaranteed right to bear arms — demands increased vigilance on the part of local law enforcement as well as “we the people,” Mack said.

“Who in your county is assigned — and has promised — to protect your citizens from injustice?” Mack asked his afternoon audience.

In reply, Mack argued that sheriffs are elected and not appointed, and so they’re uniquely positioned to protect the interests of their constituents against federal incursion.

Mack cited several well-known cases of violent outcomes in federal responses to local incidents, including the 1970 Kent State shootings in Ohio, the 1992 Ruby Ridge confrontation in Idaho, and the 1993 siege of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas. In all three cases, he maintained, federal agents usurped local authority, resulting in needless loss of life.

“If sheriffs had stayed in charge, the law would have been enforced and no one would have been killed,” he said.

Mack invoked the 1958 refusal by Rosa Parks to give up her bus seat to a white man in Montgomery, Ala., an event that sparked a key battle in black Americans’ struggle for equal civil rights. He said local law enforcement could have averted the national crisis of the Montgomery bus strike by responding compassionately to protect Parks and upholding her constitutionally protected rights.

The Constitution was created to protect the citizens of the nation from the tyranny of a central government, Mack said, but state and local governments increasingly have traded away their independence in exchange for federal funding and support.

“The best way to stop that extortion game is to stop sending [tax] money to Washington, D.C.,” he said. “Keep your money here in Maine.”

For law enforcement officials in the audience, Mack distributed free copies of his booklet, “The County Sheriff: America’s Last Hope.”

Mack criticized the news media for portraying him as a promoter of violence, holding up a recent issue of Time magazine in which he was interviewed for a report titled “The Secret World of Extreme Militias.” He said he took exception to being misquoted and mischaracterized in an article that glorified “murderers,” including a woman who had killed her husband who was abusive and had collected materials for making a “dirty bomb.”

Mack seemed surprised to learn the high-profile case had occurred in Maine. The woman cited in the Time story was Amber Cummings of Belfast, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the December 2008 death of her husband, James Cummings, whom she shot twice in the head while he slept. She was sentenced to eight years in prison, all suspended.

Mack said he intends to file a lawsuit against the publication.

Attending the afternoon session was an audience of about 20 people, including several local sheriffs and uniformed members of the Maine Militia, a quasi-military civilian group.

Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross, incoming president of the Maine Sheriffs Association, said he came to learn more about the role of the Constitution in establishing local, state and federal law enforcement jurisdiction. While it was interesting to review the relevant portions of the Constitution, he said, he relies on state and federal support to do his job effectively.

“I don’t live in a vacuum. I don’t work in a vacuum,” he said. “We all have to work together; the challenges we face today are huge and complex. I am proud to work with all agencies.”

Others attending the event included Lincoln County Sheriff Todd Bracken, Waldo County Sheriff Scott Story, and Lt. Don Pomelow of the Maine State Police in Skowhegan.

Mack was brought to Maine by a loose-knit coalition of tea party groups, including the Maine Patriots and the Maine ReFounders. Organizer Debby Reagan said she chose Old Town for Mack’s presentations because of its geographic location at the center of the state.

Mack was scheduled to speak to the general public Saturday evening.

On the Web:http://sheriffmack.com/


Meg Haskell

Meg Haskell is a curious second-career journalist with two grown sons, a background in health care and a penchant for new experiences. She lives in Stockton Springs. Email her at mhaskell@bangordailynews.com.